60. The origin and consummation of every man’s salvation is wisdom, which initially produces fear but when perfected gives rise to loving desire. Or, rather, initially and providentially wisdom manifests itself for our sake as fear, so as to make us who aspire to wisdom desist from evil; but ultimately it exists in its natural state for its own sake as loving desire, so as to fill with spiritual mirth those who have abandoned all existing things in order to dwell with it.
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. I run across too many Christian teachers today who seem to feel that fear is also the culmination of wisdom. It’s not. When we begin to understand this God and the breadth and depth of his love, and we see how we have turned from our only source of life to things which have no life, it is wise to be afraid, for fear can motivate us to turn toward life instead. But if we continue to live in fear, we remain stunted and cannot know God. Perfect love drives out fear.